Zack Greinke

Assessing the chances of the White Sox making a big splash at the trade deadline

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USA TODAY

Assessing the chances of the White Sox making a big splash at the trade deadline

I’ll admit I was as guilty as anyone when it came to predicting an in-season splash for the White Sox in 2019.

If you scroll through your White Sox Talk Podcast feed, you’ll find our entertaining season predictions edition, in which both Ryan McGuffey and myself projected a big-time acquisition by the White Sox at the trade deadline. And it wasn’t a crazy suggestion then, with the White Sox coming off their failed pursuit of Manny Machado, still the owners of a loaded farm system in a season where things were looking up, even if “up” didn’t mean a trip to the postseason.

But the realities of 2019 have since settled in.

The White Sox are going to make a big-time addition from outside the organization at some point. That’s one of the steps in Rick Hahn’s ongoing rebuilding project. And with all the positives that have happened to this point this season, that addition coming before Opening Day 2020 looks likely. Teaming that to-be-determined player with Lucas Giolito, Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Tim Anderson, James McCann, Michael Kopech, Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal and, probably, Jose Abreu could vault the White Sox into contending status for next season.

But if that player is going to be acquired at some point in the next week, where is he going to come from? The truth is that the opportunities to acquire that kind of player during the season, as opposed to in the offseason, are few and far between, especially for a team like the White Sox, who aren't exactly your traditional "buyer" at eight games under .500.

“I would like to believe it’s feasible in season,” Hahn said before the All-Star break, “and we’re going to approach things over the course of the next month as if it is. At the same time, realistically, just looking purely at the volume of such transactions, it’s more likely to occur in the offseason than in season.

“We all would like to address as many needs as possible via trade over the course of the next few weeks. Realistically, that’s probably not nearly as likely as needs being filled in the offseason.”

Here’s what the White Sox would be in the market for: a player with a good deal of team control remaining on his contract who could slot into right field or the starting rotation and make a big-time impact right away. How many players fitting that description will be on the market over the next week?

Look around the league, and there aren’t a ton of teams ready to cough up assets like that.

Perhaps the biggest name that’s been mentioned is Charlie Blackmon, an All-Star outfielder for the Colorado Rockies, who will apparently listen to offers while they own a sub-.500 record in the NL West. That division is dominated by the Los Angeles Dodgers and features a surging San Francisco Giants team, and while the San Diego Padres are in last place, they sit in a similar position to the White Sox, seemingly ready to awaken from a long rebuilding slumber in the near future.

Blackmon’s an excellent hitter, though the question will be asked about his numbers away from Coors Field. In his career, he’s got a 1.000 OPS in Denver and a .737 OPS everywhere else. This season, the disparity is even greater: a 1.318 OPS at home and a .659 OPS on the road. But that business aside, he’s got four All-Star appearances under his belt and he’s under contract through the 2021 season with a pair of player options for the two seasons that follow.

Other names that have been bandied about — even if a purely speculative fashion — include Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Zack Greinke, a potential Hall of Famer with a couple more seasons left on his very expensive contract, and Boston Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who at least one person thinks that front office should listen on as the defending champs try to shake off a World Series hangover that’s lingered deep into the summer.

Would the White Sox be interested in those types of players? Yeah, sure they would. But then the other reality check comes around the bend: Who are they going to give up to get them?

Stereotypically, these types of trades are made by teams looking to unload unfavorable contracts in an effort to launch into a rebuilding project of some kind. The D-backs would fall into that category, but the Red Sox most definitely do not. And the Rockies? They’ve still got Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story and are less than a year removed from a trip to the playoffs. They don’t strike as the kind of team ready to launch into rebuilding mode.

It's possible none of these three teams have any intention of trading the discussed players. Listening to offers and shopping for a trade partner are two very different things.

But if a team was compelled to make a deal, it would likely looking to replace an All Star with something big, be that a return package well stocked with highly ranked prospects or a player ready to make an impact at the major league level. Who do the White Sox have — that isn’t an important part of their own future plans — that would fit such a description?

The White Sox farm system looked packed to the gills with high-quality talent when the season began. Since, much of the depth has either struggled to produce or suffered a bite from the injury bug. The lengthy list of prospects who caused future roster projections to overflow last summer has potentially become less attractive to other clubs at the moment.

The White Sox sure aren’t going to trade Robert or Madrigal or Andrew Vaughn. So who becomes the best possible centerpiece of a deal that lands a player the caliber of Blackmon or Benintendi or Greinke?

Luis Basabe? He’s got a .238 batting average in only 45 games this season. Blake Rutherford? He’s got a .672 OPS. Steele Walker? His batting average is .100 points lower at Class A Winston-Salem than it was at Class A Kannapolis. Micker Adolfo? Zack Burdi? Jimmy Lambert? All three are out for the year.

These players are all entirely capable of bouncing back and becoming solid major league players. But the trade deadline is a week away. It’s hard to see these guys, at this exact moment, being enough to acquire an All-Star big leaguer.

And so that further lessens the likelihood of the White Sox making moves over the course of the next week. When you throw in these factors with the fact that their list of major league trade candidates includes a number of guys who could help a contending White Sox team in 2020, significant moves look even less likely.

Anything can happen in baseball, so never say never. But there are multiple things working against the notion of a big-time in-season acquisition.

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2019 MLB preview and predictions: How Cubs stack up against Diamondbacks

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USA TODAY

2019 MLB preview and predictions: How Cubs stack up against Diamondbacks

The National League looks as strong as ever, with as many as 12 of the 15 teams planning to contend in 2019.

The Cubs had a quiet winter, transactionally speaking, but almost every other team in the NL bolster their roster this offseason. 

But expectations haven't changed at the corner of Clark and Addison. After a disappointing finish to 2018, Kris Bryant and Co. once again have their sights set on another World Series.

With that, let's take a look at all of the teams that could stand in the way of the Cubs getting back to the Fall Classic:

Arizona Diamondbacks

2018 record: 82-80, 3rd in NL West

Offseason additions: Wilmer Flores, Carson Kelly, Luke Weaver, Merrill Kelly, Greg Holland, Nick Green, Matt Szczur

Offseason departures: Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, Patrick Corbin, Daniel Descalso, Chris Owings, Jeff Mathis, Jon Jay, Shelby Miller, Brad Boxberger, Randall Delgado, Jake Diekman

X-factor: David Peralta

Arizona's once-thunderous lineup is now down to basically just Peralta, a converted pitcher who flew under the radar as a hitter for years before enjoying a true breakout in 2018 (30 HR, 87 RBI, .868 OPS). 

He's already nearing the end of his prime (he turns 32 in August) and is only under control for another two seasons, so he probably won't be a part of the future as the D-Backs rebuild. If he continues to hit, he could be a huge trade piece this summer and possibly bring back a nice haul to set the organization up better for the future.

Projected lineup

1. Ketel Marte - CF
2. Eduardo Escobar - 3B
3. David Peralta - LF
4. Steven Souza Jr. - RF
5. Jake Lamb - 1B
6. Wilmer Flores - 2B
7. Nick Ahmed - SS
8. Carson Kelly - C

Projected rotation

1. Zack Greinke
2. Robbie Ray
3. Zack Godley
4. Luke Weaver
5. Merrill Kelly

Outlook

Not good.

For the first time since 2007-08, the Diamondbacks put up a winning record in back-to-back seasons, but that's about the only silver lining. After making the playoffs in 2017, the '18 squad expected to contend and instead barely made it over .500.

Then their purge began, losing their two best hitters (Goldschmidt, Pollock), their best pitcher (Corbin), their closer (Boxberger) and a host of other valuable role players (Descalso, Owings, Jay, Miller, etc.). The Cubs were benefactors of that purge in the form of Descalso, but also now have to face Goldschmidt an extra 13 games this season with his trade to the Cardinals.

This is a Diamondbacks team without a discernible direction, as they have a payroll north of $120 million (much of that tied up in Greinke, who will make more than $34 million in 2019) yet have apparently begun the early stages of a rebuild. 

The organization will have to move on knowing this once-strong young core never won anything and the window of contention is all but slammed shut. Only a handful of guys are signed beyond 2020, the remaining top players (Peralta, Ray, Lamb, Souza) are probably going to be shopped on the trade market this summer and Greinke turns 36 in October.

This roster isn't barren, but it's nowhere near the team Arizona has put out on the field the last couple years. Props to the front office for turning Goldschmidt into Carson Kelly and Weaver, but the farm system isn't anything to write home about and the bullpen looks like it could be a mess after Archie Bradley and 35-year-old Yoshihisa Hirano.

The Cubs probably won't have to worry about the D-Backs as a contender this year or anytime in the near future.

Prediction: 4th in NL West

All 2019 previews & predictions

San Francisco Giants
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Los Angeles Dodgers
Miami Marlins
New York Mets
Atlanta Braves
Philadelphia Phillies
Washington Nationals
Cincinnati Reds
Pittsburgh Pirates
Milwaukee Brewers
St. Louis Cardinals

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Sox Drawer Q&A: Can the White Sox become the Mariners' next trade partner?

Sox Drawer Q&A: Can the White Sox become the Mariners' next trade partner?

Let’s begin this edition of the Sox Drawer with an appreciation for the one and only Omar Narvaez, who the White Sox selected in the AAA phase of the 2013 Rule 5 draft (30 picks AFTER they chose catcher Adrian Nieto — remember him?). Five years later, Narvaez became such a hot commodity, the White Sox were able to flip him to the Seattle Mariners on Friday for All-Star reliever Alex Colome.  

This is MLB’s version of winning the Rule 5 lottery.   

How unique is Narvaez? FutureSox ran the numbers. In the last 15 Rule 5 drafts, there have been 583 players selected in the minor league portion of the draft. Forty-one of those players have gone on to reach the majors. How many have generated a 3+ bWAR in their MLB careers like Narvaez? Only 5 of them, less than 1 percent!

Alexi Ogando, Alejandro de Aza, Justin Bour, Richard Bleier and Narvaez. That’s it.

Narvaez deserves a ton of credit for breaking through and becoming a certified major leaguer. Who else helped him? Believe it or not, an instructional video featuring one of the greatest hitters in baseball history: Tony Gwynn. True story.

After batting .168 in April and May last season, Narvaez told me he started watching this old hitting video of the late San Diego Padres Hall of Famer. Gwynn said that one of the keys to his success was simply watching the baseball come out of the pitcher’s hand. Gwynn obviously had an incredible eye; that helped. This novel concept also helped Narvaez, who went back and watched the video again, used Gwynn’s method in games and in the last four months of the season, he slashed .315/.401/.502.   

I can’t say who will be the next Omar Narvaez to win the Rule 5 lottery for the White Sox, but I can answer your questions right here, right now in the Sox Drawer!  

Q: Trading four years of Narvaez for two years of Colome and then non-tendering Davidson and Avi (assuming they improve those positions) seem like indicators the organization wants to begin competing for the division as early as next year. Am I reading too much into these moves? — DJ (@DeepFriedStack)

CG: At first glance, it might seem that way, but according to Rick Hahn, that was not the reason behind the moves. Rebuilding or not, the White Sox really need to improve the back end of the bullpen. With Welington Castillo signed for one more year with a team option for a second and with Seby Zavala and Zack Collins waiting in the wings and eventually needing major-league time at catcher, the White Sox had to make some room behind the plate long-term. They sold high on Narvaez and acquired a premium arm in Colome to either set up or close games.  

I know we’ve seen reports about how active the White Sox might be this offseason. How active are they? Hahn won’t say, but on Friday he did explain what they are trying to do this winter in terms of free agents: making calculated moves that fit the White Sox long-term plan. 

“In this free agent market, there are potential opportunities to convert on premium talent that would fit along with what we’re trying to develop for the long term,” Hahn said on a conference call with reporters. “Usually, when you look at a rebuild when you’re entering Year 3 as we are, it isn’t necessarily the time that teams push ahead in the winter and try to advance things unnaturally. That’s not what we’re going to do. We’re going to stick with the long-term plan. But if in fact, there’s an opportunity to convert on unique talent that becomes available that fits that long-term plan, then yes, we’re going to be aggressive and fully explore it.”

The “unique talent” that Hahn describes at least sounds like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. If the White Sox are able to sign or acquire someone of that ilk to a long term deal and they end up competing for a division title next season, that would be great. But making moves to try to win the division next year at the cost of losing financial flexibility further down the road is not the plan. Still, the White Sox lost 100 games last year. There’s a lot of improving that can be done, even if it’s in the short-term. Getting Colome for 2 years is an example of that.

Q: Grandal is number 1 for catchers in catcher runs saved the last three years. Realmuto is 2nd to last at -25. Grandal’s number is +39. Grandal also has a great OBP for offensive catching standards. With all the attention being centered around Realmuto, can the Sox sign Grandal? — Scott Zablocki (@mr_zablocki)

CG: J.T. Realmuto has 2 years left on his contract. Probably not enough time to part ways with precious prospects anyway considering the White Sox window. I don’t see that happening.Grandal is a free agent. On paper, signing him seems more plausible, but then you’re completly shaking up the catcher position. You then have to trade Castillo, and what about the futures for Collins and Zavala, who the White Sox still believe in? I’m not saying the White Sox wouldn’t do it, but it would definitely be a sudden left turn.

Q: The Mets made a deal with the Mariners for Diaz with the Cano contract attached. Do you think the Sox could get involved with helping them move the underwater Seager deal (potentially still useful for us) attached to Haniger? That would be a nice deal. I would move a non-Eloy for. —Dayton Cripe  (@daycri83)

CG: Getting an All-Star right fielder like Mitch Haniger would be great for the White Sox. He’d fit right in with the plan. But taking on third baseman Kyle Seager and his contract (3 years, $57.5 million) feels like a sunk cost the White Sox wouldn’t want to acquire. While Seager is incredibly durable (he’s played at least 154 games in 7 consecutive seasons), his offensive numbers continue to drop. Last season, he bottomed out at .221/.273/.400. Third base is like a Rubik’s Cube for the White Sox. There are many possibilities for next season and beyond, from Machado to Moncada to Yolmer to Burger to Arenado to Donaldson, etc. However, I’m not sure I see them solving third base with Seager.

Q: What do you think about...
1. Trading a “B” tier prospect for Zack Grienke. (White Sox not on his no trade list, 3 years left on deal)
2. Signing Jonathan Schoop, 1 year prove it deal to bridge until Madrigal arrives. 
3. Does delmonico get the chance to prove himself as a starter? — Kaz Daddy (@AaronKaczmarksi)

CG: As much as I like Greinke, he’s entering the danger zone for a starting pitcher. He’ll be 35 this season. I’d be willing to take a risk on him at 35, but not at $35 million a year. If the Diamondbacks will eat about half his salary, that would help, but Arizona will want a lot more than a “B” tier prospect. As for Schoop, he’s a bit like Avisail Garcia: All-Star in 2017, rough season in 2018. Garcia is one year older. If Schoop isn’t signed until late in the winter and the White Sox haven’t found a third baseman, maybe then you sign Schoop to a 1-year contract and move Moncada to third. Finally, Delmonico got a chance to prove himself last season, but unfortunately he got hurt and couldn’t build on his 2017 season. It’s tough to say at this point where he fits in next season. As the founder of the Nicky Delmonico Fan Club, I’m hoping he sticks around and gets another chance, even if it’s off the bench.

Q: On a recent White Sox Talk podcast, you said that the Sox should aim for Moustakas. I think that would be a total step backwards for the franchise. Do you really believe that would be a smart move for the Sox now!? — Orlando Quintana (@LandoJQuintana)

CG: Sometimes when you think out loud on a podcast, you later realize that you might have been wrong, or in this case, partly wrong. On Episode 176, I said that despite their attempts to sign Manny Machado and possibly Nolan Arenado or Anthony Rendon next offseason, the more realistic third base option for the White Sox might end up being Moustakas, because it’s not as easy to sign big-name free agents as it looks. I still believe that. But after thinking it over, I explained on the very next podcast, Episode 177, that Moustakas wouldn’t fit with the White Sox long term, because if they don’t get one of the premium free agent third basemen, Moncada will likely end up there. I can’t see them signing Moustakas long-term if Madrigal hits at second base and they have someone like Moncada who can play third. I can change my mind, can’t I? Thanks for listening to the podcast!

Q: How great is it going to be to have a Eloy, Pollock, Harper OF next year? — Michael Ricciotti (@Be_Like_Mike20)

CG: Can’t wait. World Series here we come!

Q: Let’s say the Sox don’t make any other significant moves by Opening Day. With the roster as it is now, what’s the Opening Day lineup, especially at RF and DH? — Bill (@hitless1)

CG: I think Daniel Palka is the DH. I have no idea who plays right field. To be determined.

Q: I want to know what’s on Rick Hahn’s mind. What’s next? — Mr. Rock Opera (@MrRockOpera)

CG: I’d like to know as well! Although I don’t mind the suspense. Hang in there! Winter Meetings are next week, by the way.  

Q: Who do you think is an underrated prospect in the White Sox system that people might be overlooking? — awkward standing klay (@klaymemeson)

CG:  One prospect you shouldn’t overlook is Micker Adolfo. I wrote about him last week.

I’ll give you two more:  Luis Gonzalez and Gavin Sheets. They’re ranked 14th and 15th in the White Sox system according to MLB Pipeline, so it’s not like they’re off the radar, but when people talk about the White Sox future teams, you don’t usually hear either guy mentioned. Sheets, the White Sox second round pick in 2017, is a left-handed first baseman who slashed .293/.368/.407 last season at Class-A Winston-Salem. At 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, he has the build to mash a lot of home runs (he hit 20 in 227 at-bats in his final year at Wake Forest), but the power has yet to arrive in the minors. If it does, look out. He’s one to watch this season. Gonzalez was drafted behind Sheets in the third round in 2017. He’s a grinder type who can play all three outfield spots. He hit .313/.376/.504 for Winston-Salem last season. I’m interested to see how both of them develop as the move up in the farm system.

Q: Two years ago was Delmonico, this year was Palka, who will the surprise breakout player be for the Sox in 2019? — Jake Horning (@JArthur)

CG:  That’s a good question, and a tough one to answer this early in the offseason. Matt Skole is a possibility. Get back to me in spring training!

Q: How long term is Moncada? do you see him being a long-term consistent, franchise player, or do you think he’ll go with one of these inevitable big time trades in the near future. — Kyle Schultz (@kyle_eschultz)

CG: Baseball can be a tough, unpredictable game. Trying to define who a player is and who he will become is very difficult, especially when you’re talking about a 23-year-old like Moncada who just completed his first full season in the big leagues. Despite his struggles last season, Moncada still had 55 extra base hits, that’s 11 more than Jose Altuve. When Moncada makes contact, he can do serious damage. He has the talent to become a franchise player who you keep as opposed to trade. Let’s see how he does in 2019. 

Q: Are you going to be reporting from the field again this year and if so, you need to let us know what games you are doing and come out to the tailgating! — Rob Landeck (@RLandeck66)

CG: Yes, I’ll be back on the field again, reporting for all the home games on NBC Sports Chicago. You tailgating?? I’m in!

Q: How many socks fit in the Sox drawer? — Brett Bauer (@DoubleB72)

CG: About 20.

And finally!

Q:  When will we be good? — Ryan Kelly (@rkelly1122)

CG: 2019 is possible. 2020 is more realistic. Better days are ahead!

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